Monday, July 25, 2016

Nothing Comes Between Stephanie Alves and her Adaptive Jeans

For 25 years, fashion designer, Stephanie Alves worked for large companies like Ann Taylor Loft and small companies like The Harari Collection.  She even owned a boutique in the East Village of New York City where she sold her own designs. Yet it was only after a family member endured two failed back surgeries and ended up using a wheelchair that she discovered her true calling.

“I went to visit my step-sister after the surgery and she told me that she didn’t even feel like getting dressed. It was just too hard,” recalls Alves. “So I said, ‘What if I just opened up the pants so they were easy to get on?’ After that, I started adapting clothing for other people with disabilities and I realized, ‘This is what I should be doing.’”  She started a business called the Able Tailor in 2010.

Over the next several years, Alves tailored clothes for customers with a range of disabilities, altering their clothing according to their individual needs. Finally, she felt she knew enough to design a line of adaptive clothing.

“I already had a small clothing line, so I knew about manufacturing and having my own design business.”

But Alves didn’t want to take on too much too fast.  ‘I’m going to focus on one clothing category,’” she said.  In order to determine what type of clothing she should offer, Alves asked her customers, ’what is the clothing you most miss wearing?’ Everyone said they most missed wearing [comfortable] jeans.”  Alves founded ABL Denim with the help of a kickstarter campaign in 2013.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DIR Floortime: What’s it all about? Q & A with Sima Gerber, Ph.D.

Experts agree—when diagnosed with a developmental disability such as autism, early intervention is crucial. Yet, the same experts don’t always agree on which interventions are most effective.  With some professionals favoring behavioral approaches such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Pivotal Response Training (PRT) and Verbal Behavioral Analysis (VBA), others believing in developmental models such as P.L.A.Y. PROJECT, SCERTS and DIR (Developmental, Individualized, Relationship-based model) Floortime, and still others recommending a combination of interventions, parents have their work cut out for them. It can be overwhelming to decide what therapies will best meet your child’s needs.

In this week’s blog post, we learn about the DIR Floortime approach and speak with Sima Gerber, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, a trained DIR Floortime practitioner, speech/language therapist and professor of of Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Linguistics and Communication Disorders of Queens College, City University of New York. Gerber specializes in working with children on the autism spectrum and has been using the DIR Floortime model in her therapeutic work with children for the past 25 years. She has worked as a speech-language pathologist for 40 years.

E.D.: What is the history of DIR Floortime?
S.G.: The DIR Floortime model was conceived by the late Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist and Dr. Serena Wieder, a child psychologist.  In the 1970s Dr. Greenspan was working on the Clinical Infant Development Program, an NIMH clinical research study research study and he asked Serena to join him in 1978. In those days, autism was [at least thought to be] relatively rare.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rainy-Day Summer Fun

When rain keeps you trapped indoors, keeping the kids occupied can be a challenge. No worries, though. Sensory play will engage kids for hours!

1. Why sensory play?
According to child development experts at PBS Parents, sensory play “helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially, emotionally, physically and creatively.”

While all children learn about the world through their senses, sensory play can be especially valuable for children with special needs who may have greater difficulty tolerating and integrating sensory stimuli.  For example, children on the autism spectrum are often uncomfortable with loud noise, bright lights, unfamiliar tastes or smells that they find offensive. Others have strong preferences when it comes to the clothes they wear, because certain textures bother them. Some children on the spectrum are overly- sensitive and react negatively to being touched while other children go out of their way to bump into walls and furniture in order to feel deeper sensations.

Sensory play is also important for children who don’t have full use of all of their senses. According to, a project of Perkins School for the Blind, “It's important for children who are blind to participate in sensory play because it will help build their other senses and allow for sensations that may be directed by one sense (like sight) to be directed by another (like touch).”

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Visit the Only Bricks and Mortar Museum that Celebrates Disability!

Planning on being in or around the Buffalo, N.Y. area this summer? If so, you may want to spend a few hours at the Museum of disABILITY History. Founded in 1998, the museum was the brainchild of Dr. James Boles, president and CEO of People Inc., Western N.Y.’s leading nonprofit human services agency. Boles first recognized a need for a museum that collected and displayed archives and materials related to disability while teaching an Introduction to Disabilities class at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“The museum started with a small traveling exhibition entitled, “The Birth of Newborn Screening,” says Museum of disABILITY History director, Douglas Farley. “From there, it grew by adding a new exhibit each year. After ten years, the museum had enough content to set up shop permanently. In 2010, the New York State Board of Regents granted a charter.” It remains the only bricks and mortar museum dedicated to preserving disability history, says Farley.